Contentment

Y’all have been here for awhile. You know me. I don’t like the cold. I do not look forward to sweaters and boots. I could easily walk away from this state for several months each year and live happily (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that). Last winter was a hard one for me, I went into it with a much better attitude and I held onto that positivity well into January. The season dragged on though, it always does. Do what you will to save your own sanity; stay in Autumn until the winter solstice, reach out and grab Spring while there is still a foot of snow on the ground. The ice and snow, sub-zero temps, layers upon layers…I can not love it.

I do hope to avoid the endless slog of sadness this winter though. I’m going to make an attempt to photograph and write about the things that bring me joy. Joy on the journey; that’s sort of one of my “things”. I don’t know exactly how it’ll go, but I have some ideas. My hope is that in sharing the things that are beautiful and warm and meaningful here on this page I can stay afloat just a bit higher this year. I want to look at this winter as a season of rest, a time to nourish and refresh. Instead of as the cold, dark place in my soul that I fall into and struggle to escape.

Please understand that I will not anticipate or be loving the winter, but I’d like to do more than survive it. The last few days I’ve felt myself slipping into bad winter-time habits; hiding indoors, sending my children out while I stay in, bundling myself in with books and blankets, not stepping out around the fire on the deck for fear of the chilly bite in the air. I am not going to do this for the next six months, I am not. I mean, except for the book part…totally going to do that.

As Autumn continues to swirl the yellow leaves in my yard as opposed to swirling snow I am choosing now to look at each good thing for what it is, not at what it is not. The leaves are crunchy under my feet, my scarf is soft and warm, the sky is clearest blue…these individual joys hold merit on their own. They do not have to be made better by comparing them with the cold-that-is-not-quite-yet-here. I know this now, but I’m posting reminders on my calendar to come back and reread these words, lest I forget.

My attitude change toward winter is a hard fought battle for me, you all know. Earlier this Summer, in deciding to stay, I found that Paul’s words came to me again and again; “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” (from Philippians 4). Don’t get me wrong, winter is nowhere near the conditions Paul is referring to, I get that. I will not compare my minuscule “suffering” to his. What I did do though is realize that my struggle with winter was not what God wanted from or for me. Yes, I believe He wanted to hear all of my complaints, to trust Him for a way out, to listen to His peace spoken in the still, small hours of frozen mornings. He also wanted me to learn, to grow, to not stay in that place where I could not, at least, be content regardless of the weather outside.

To be content has become my goal for the season ahead. I am reminding myself that contentment comes from Christ. I can (and oh! have I) worry over all. of. the. things., but this will bring my soul no rest. There is no contentment in my old fallback anxiety. I worry still, that I will succumb to the darkness and despair over the winter as I have in the past. In this worry I remembered some more of Paul’s words though and they reminded me how very not-alone I am. Both in my hatred of the season and in my desire to find joy in it.

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (from chapter 4, verse 14)

I have an amazing circle of women who I will rely on to keep me on a positive track and who will allow me to complain a bit too. I am hopeful that they will continue to “share in my troubles” and that we will lift each other up without fear of giving too much. I will beg a lot of grace from my family when I don’t want to go out, and they remind me of these words, and I regret writing them because it means actually bundling up and going out, and they will give it because they are so, so good to me. It will be so good of all of you to share in my troubles.

Ultimately, I have no idea how to make this Minnesota winter, and the many I can see in my future, positive. I’m open to suggestions that do not involve actually going out into it! I’m looking for ideas that will be fulfilling, while remembering who I am fundamentally. So, while I will likely take the kids ice skating a handful of times, I have no desire to purchase snowmobiles or an ice fishing shack. Though I will take them sledding, I will still be happier to make the cocoa when we get home. There will be long underwear under my jeans and there will be stocking caps on my head until May, and I refuse to be happy about either, but I will choose to be content in the love and peace God continues to offer me.

My kids on the beach in South Texas last year…one of my favorite wintertime memories!

Asters

The air moves slower, though the wind hurries the clouds across the moon. Bees and butterflies alike rest on the hardy asters, soaking in the sunshine and beauty of these Autumn days. Busy still, but seemingly unhurried somehow. As if they know the gathering is important, but so is the joy you take in the process. Especially now, when winter is knocking hard and heavy at the door.

I sit with them. Knowing the tasks that need be done before the season truly turns. Trusting in the perfect combination of days to ensure enough sunshine is absorbed while the necessary is completed. Feeling in my soul that the only necessity is enough warmth stored in my bones to last through February.

The Autumn slows me every year. Causing me to look hard at the activities I’ve signed us up for and the plans I’ve made. It asks me if all of this busy is sustainable, required, good? Have I allowed enough time in my week for serving those who need help? Have I filled the hours too full to be there when a friend is in need? Do I spread myself too thin to give my best to the ones I most dearly love?

I’m hoping for nights by the fire without snow on the ground yet this fall. Perhaps those moments will be stolen from required tasks. I hope to invite my most dear loves to sit quiet in the final blaze of Autumn. Not rushing to the next thing, rather enjoying this moment as it is, for what it is. For what it is, is no less than what is needed.

Stopping to Scratch Out a Thought

Friends ask how I’m doing with the staying.

I smile and nod.

Say that I am doing well. Filling the Summer to the brim with what I love.

Leech Lake, Walker, MN

There are thoughts I don’t speak, feelings I don’t share, my life is a gift and a blessing and I know it.

And I dig another row of sod out of the backyard. Move plants. Smile at new growth. Listen to the wind in the trees and the cars in the road.

And wonder if it is enough. Always wonder.

Why there have been so many “no’s”. What God is holding behind His back for me. What better is to come. Is this goodness that I need…more than the goodness that I want?

And I dig another row in the earth. Scatter plants to friends and neighbors alike. Cut the grass, drown the sound of the world with the music in my head. Watch the dog rest in the freshly turned soil. This life is a gift…

Yet…I frown at the work I create for myself. Busy my hands with growing, lifting, supporting. Both children and perennials. The occasional smile as something tender blossoms under my care.

How am I? I sit with this question and dirt under my nails. Really, really good. This is true, but in choosing to stay the ache has not disappeared. The desire to run still so strong somedays that the tears blur the words I try to scratch out.

Today is one of those days.

As the press of Autunn weighs heavy on my calendar and in my heart.

There is still time I tell myself.

Time to wander in the woods. Time to get lost in the fields. Time to disappear into the surf…someday.

There is time.

Today is for digging. Perhaps tomorrow there will be something different. Either way this day, this life, this moment is a gift and I know it.

I Want You to Know

If you’re wondering what’s going on with us, please read this post.

There are many thoughts that fill my head. More ramblings that roll through my mind than y’all would ever care to read about here. Often I think so long on something that I feel everyone in my circle must understand, even if I had never actually vocalized the thoughts. The last few days have found me wondering about all of the things we have. I have written, though not in a very long time, about the ways my family has been abundantly blessed over the years. People have have given to us, we have stumbled across things, opportunities have just worked out more than I can remember.

All of these gifts and met-needs have filled our home with comforts. I scribble down thanks for these comforts daily. Over the last few days I was caught off guard when several dear friends told me that they didn’t fully know of our plan to escape the Minnesota cold. While we don’t really anticipate leaving anytime soon, we do hope to go, and we are planning accordingly. This is one of those things that is so often on my mind, I had felt that everyone must know. I was wrong, and glaringly so. These two seemingly random ramblings; my overwhelming blessings and my inability to vocalize the thoughts in my head do actually go together…just give it a minute please.

I’ve been wondering why I have so much. I mean, I didn’t really set out the second time around to have this typical American dream with the picket fence and two fancy cars in the garage. Yet here I sit.

I’m not complaining, please let me explain.

Post-divorce things got tricky for us. Jobs lost and given up, a new baby, blending a family that was not so sure it wanted mixing at times. We were in a bad financial place and all I could do was to pray. I asked for enough money to pay the bills. I asked for toys and activities for my children. I asked for friends and a community. I asked for the gas in my car to make it through the week. I asked for a home with a yard, a place to call ours. All of the things I prayed for through tears and with a very humbled heart I was given.

Hear me.

Hear me when I say that there was often not enough money to pay all of the bills, that my children did go without a lot of things other kids have, that I had to work to build a community twice, that very often the gas was not enough to get through the week., that the house we were given took a lot of work and a few years to become a home. Sometimes Frequently the prayers are not answered in the way we expect.

Now though.

As I look around this over-large house full of all sorts of things that I’d consider luxury, I wonder over the gift it all is. And I feel a bit ungrateful to think of walking away from it all. I feel like I am being wasteful of His gifts to me by seeing now that I no longer need or want all of this. Why would He have met these wants if they were just wants? Surely the creator would have known that I’d arrive here, in a place where the wants would be excess and the gifts would be nearly burdensome? This has something to do with First John 3:1 I think.

Yet here I am.

The only way I can rationalize it is in somehow paying it all forward. As I begin to think about discarding things, begin to wonder about selling off pieces of this American dream I also wonder how we can do some sort of good in the lives of our community. How this will look is uncertain to me, but I want to donate to more than just the Goodwill. I’ve asked to see the people in need in my community; read my personal community, not only the place where I live. I’m asking to offer up what I have because it is so much more than we need. I don’t yet know how this looks, but I hope that I see it as it is happening.

That I don’t miss it.

 

 

I want to know, I guess, that all I’ve been given is not wasted. That the notes of thanks I’ve written out continue to have meaning to someone, even if I am no longer that someone. I think about this a lot. And that is why I’m writing it down here to share to you, because I don’t want my circle of friends to miss this or feel as though I didn’t mention it.

I want you to know.

I want you to know that I see the needs you have, and while I may not be the one to meet them, I trust the One who will. I want you to know and so I (hope to follow through with this) will talk about what is going on with us and our stuff in person with you. I will make more of an effort to share with my dear friends where we are on this journey toward less stuff and more happiness.

It may be slow, but it will be deliberate.

The choices we are making today may end up not being the ones we want to live with ten years from now, but as I don’t regret any of the things I have asked for up till now I am sure that asking for this opportunity to travel, to live where there is more warmth and sunshine, to do something that feels selfish, but right… I trust that these prayers will be answered and that I’ll take each day as the gift it is. That is, I think, how I can show my appreciation and gratitude.

 

Slowing the Rush

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If you’ve been around awhile, you know that I don’t like the over-scheduled, crazy-busy lifestyle. It stresses me out, makes me a bad momma/wife/human. I really work to avoid the hustle and the rush. I can’t help but wonder; if I have to work toward the calm, is it really calm though?

Lately I find myself feeling busy and rushed and chaotic all of the time. I mean, like, every day. There is always one more thing to do, one more person to care for…the things that I want to do, that I want to make time for rarely seem to actually materialize.

So I’ve decided the best thing for me to do is get the eff out. Like maybe we should never return from the campground. Can I do that? Please?

Okay, so maybe it’s not super realistic, but trust that that I AM working on it as my end goal. And, though it may take me a year (or more) to get right back to here, I’ll take the time. To all of you who ask me where we’ll be next week, next month, next season…I say, Who knows!? Why do I need to rush into it, rush to know what’s next? I’ll take the days to figure it out. I’ll sit with the choices available to me.

As I ease into this slower than is my normal Autumn, I am still feeling the rush a bit. I still don’t want to do all of the things that my children would like me to do. I am saying no to some of the activities. I expressed a little of my worry over this recently, but I do feel like by showing my children that they can say no to good things that they will be better equipped to live their best life when they are grown. Only showing them the exhausted side of myself does not teach them to care for themselves well.

Something I have not talked much about recently is my physical health and how deeply it’s attached to my mental well being. All of the struggles I have had in the past with illness, while physically a bacterial health issue (psst; this really helped me out.Garden of Life Women’s Probiotics), were directly linked to the depression that settles over my soul in the Winter. My optimism in taking this season at my chosen pace feels now, like it will help me stay healthier and closer to myself even when the cold is heavy and the darkness is deep. This trusting of myself is a good thing for my children to see. It shows them how they can really listen to their bodies and that what they hear has value and worth. They don’t have to look outwardly for their own peace or healing, it is within them. This said, I hope they will see the beauty in accepting and seeking help when it is offered or needed. That they can trust themselves to know when they need to accept it.

What do you do to slow yourself? Do you take the time that you need or do you feel like you must keep moving, keep making progress, that you must keep going? I know that I need to stop, I wrote a teensy bit about the full-stop recently and it has kept me aware of my rolling through all of the things that are meant to be breaks for me. How that is a disservice to myself. Knowledge is, truly, power and I know that by being aware I will begin to take better advantage of the full-stop. Even just sitting here this day typing out these words in the middle of a Sunday are proof that I can listen and do what I really need.

As I look at my week ahead I know that it is a busy one. Even my “stay-home” day is not going to be spent at home this week. There will be much going and doing and playing and celebrating and… and hopefully some stopping too. I’ll have to schedule the stops I think. Take time when I am done here to put the breaks into my days where I can anticipate needing them. Taking them too will be key, knowing they are needed is not enough in and of itself. The biggest thing that I do for myself is to deliberately schedule in the exploring time. Being outside fixes most of what is broken in my soul. Taking the time to adventure heals all that is left unmended. This week I can see where I will break to head outdoors, I will plan deliberately. Even though it means more work-packing lunches, ensuring proper clothing, searching for hats and mittens-once we get there the time will be fulfilling.

There are no shortage of excuses these days, as the dreary, wet Autumn lingers and pours depression into my very soul I know that going outside is what will overtake the sadness. It will become more difficult to force myself out, remind me if you see me though will you? If you’re wondering what we’re up to or where our adventures are taking us please ask those questions! It helps to talk about it, to know there will be escape at some point. This week though? I foresee the days holding long Autumn walks, growing ever more comfortable with the forests and wood near our home. Will you join me?

P.S. I found this trail guide recently and love it! We can’t wait to take some excellent walks if it ever warms back up!Take a look!

The Blank Page

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Last night I was drinking rum, perhaps that explains a bit of this rambling. Perhaps not, it is quite possible that the thoughts have finally bubbled to the surface due in part to a vague suggestion. The idea that the young should travel -no, not should, but must- is not a new one. So often we send our recently graduated students out into the wider world in part because they need a job, but more so because they are at the perfect place to do the leaving. Nothing is holding them back, nothing is keeping them here.

What if you never left when you were young? Does the opportunity pass you by simply because you have children or are established in your community? Is the only way to successfully leave “later in life” if you are offered an amazing job opportunity? Why can’t freedom and exploration come at any point in life? Why do the repercussions seem harsher? Should children ever be uprooted? Y’all have been around long enough to understand where I’m at with these thoughts right? Good.

I’ve had trouble putting a solid feeling behind my desire for travel. I feel so deeply that it is no different from a desire to succeed or a want for love, but people don’t really get that correlation. In my alcohol-induced brilliance I came to the analogy of the blank page; not by chance mind you. No, it came about after a bit of a rambling from Bruce Springsteen that my sweet husband was listening to. (If you want to check out the song, you can buy it here from Amazon; Thunder Road (Springsteen on Broadway).  

For reasons I will not try to fully explain, this image made clear my own feelings. The blank page is a perfect metaphor for so many areas of my life. Most obvious is right here. There is something about the clear screen of my computer that makes me want to fill it with words and ideas and emotion. The driving can not be ignored with this idea either. Taking the road less traveled, wandering the secret paths, heading out alone into unknown territory is the very essence of who I am. Not least of the pieces of me that could be defined by this idea, is my inherent desire to travel. To get away from the comfortable and explore the wild. I am not satisfied to simply vacation away my time. I want to fill notebook pages with the beauty and chaos I experience in the great unknown. The white-space I tend to leave on my calendar, the silence I am forever seeking, the ever-constant decluttering; all model my need for a blank page.

Are you still with me? I tried to warn you about the rum…

I’ll ask again; am I too late? Should I resolve myself to the darkness of Winter and stationary life? My littles don’t all want to move South where cold will mean 50’s, but friends will need to be sought out. Should we stay to ease our fears? My sweet husband sees the hassle involved with our current plan. Should we stay for our comfort? Though my mother does not yet know that we may pick up and drive away, I can tell you that she does not want us to go. Should we stay to ease her worry? If I would have recognized my gypsy soul at eighteen would anyone have questioned me when I packed a duffle and drove away?

That changes the question a bit doesn’t it? Why didn’t I ever pack that bag? Why didn’t I ever load up the car? There’s a secret truth here, something I will not share fully with y’all today. We can blame fear for now and it will suffice as an acceptable reason. Fortunately for me there is no actual limit, implied or otherwise stated that tells me I can not go now. Even though I am so far past that “ideal” age.

The desire remains.

The passion stirs.

The page is still blank.

Snatches of Time

I put all of my people to bed early tonight. I had ambitious hopes of coming here and writing out the cries of my heart. Nearly an hour later I am still up and down the stairs with a child who feels less than wonderful. I am frustrated by this because I really needed the time. Instead of tapping away peacefully I am scribbling snatches of thought between whispered prayers and requests for essential oils. I see the selfishness in this rant. I really do.

I have been holding off on writing, feeling as though the time would come if I let life flow naturally. We aren’t so busy, the days are not over full, the time seems to skip happily away while I play Legos with a little or read endless chapters to fill their imaginations.

I know what you will say; this is a momma’s most precious work! Her most important job! Be grateful!

I am.

I agree.

I still want something more.

While this rambling will likely never support my family, how can I know that when I can’t even steal an hour at the end of the day to type out a coherent thought? When and where (and most of all how???) am I supposed to build an audience when I can’t build a proper paragraph for lack of focus?

I have my excuses it’s true.

I don’t mean to have quite so many.

I’ll admit to being distracted plenty of the time. With projects. With Facebook. With catching up on years of lost sleep. Still, it seems I should be allowed this time for me. This time to do something that makes me feel like I’m intelligent. Something that is meaningful to at least a few of you dedicated friends. Something that let’s me deal with the anxiety and fear and despair that creep in during the darkest months of the year.

What to do? I feel the call of the early mornings again. Though I despise waking before the sun or at least before six AM, I know that my house is quiet then. Children typically don’t stir early. Devices need to be charged. Tasks must be quiet so as not to wake sleeping babe’s. This frustrates me, I do not want to give in to that time of day. It seems that I must though. No other hours will relent their needs.

If you notice a few more posts in the coming weeks, you can assume that I have given in to the deepest cry of my heart -the desire to create something from myself, from who I’ve learned that I am- and that my heart has won over the logical side of me who really loves to snuggle back into the comforters every morning.

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t be too disappointed, there are lots of words out there. Trust that the right ones will come to you as you need them. I’ll keep etching out moments, minutes, corners of time that will continue to build my story, and make my own spilled out thoughts that less rambling once they meet the page.